How interesting. A website showing you just how widespread the BBC network of journalists is. Take note of the African continent. Look hard at the map. You don’t see a triangle in Algeria do you? But there is a ‘stringer’ there, who has risked his life for years for Auntie. What about Libya? Yes, there’s another brave stringer there. Namibia? Yes, well, less brave, but there is one there, too. And then screw your eyes up for the tiny bunch of West African countries – like Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Senegal – you can see nothing. But there are – or in some cases were – stringers there, too. Some still exist. Some have been fired (or dropped) for no good reason at all other than fast-vanishing BBC World Service budgets (which noone at the Foreign Office – which funds Bush House, though few know it – wants to talk about very much). Some have had to flee their base (and their home) because of leaders like Yaya Jammeh – and the BBC has said or done absolutely nothing at all. Some just live in places that the BBC no longer deems particularly important. Some have died (and some from curable diseases, but with no health insurance to cover them they have simply passed away).
Funny that my name is on the list of stringers. But I haven’t been a BBC stringer for nearly a year. The BBC does not have a stringer in Angola now. The country is ‘covered’ (up) by one of the bigger bureaux – just like a whole lot of other countries which don’t really matter unless another war breaks out or a drought leading to famine occurs or some other reportable disaster easily-enough digestible for the minds of BBC ‘news managers’.
I would like to see, not a map of bureaux, correspondents & stringers, but a corresponding map of how the BBC values those people. You see, one of the things the BBC does supremely well is boasting to the world about how many reporters and journalists it has across the planet, all scurrying away like ants, digging for information to bring you – dear valued public – news from across the globe. What the BBC does even better is paying people very little who live and work in some of the most testing and dangerous places in the world, forgetting about them when they get into trouble with the local dictator, and firing them when the government says it isn’t interested in having some trouble-making reporter in a country of interest to British businessmen. And you don’t even really need to fire stringers because their contracts, as my legal minded brother once pointed out, aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
Yes. I’d like to see a map of which BBC journalists are valued so much that they are given a nice car, a nice house, a nice pension, health insurance and paid holidays; and which BBC stringers are valued so little, they are bought a return-ticket if they’re lucky, a BBC laptop if they’re even luckier, and a coffin when they die from malaria – or the like. I’d also like to see the nationality of those people. I’d like to see how many ‘local’ stringers – as they are known so patronisingly – are in the latter group, and how many self-important British ‘correspondents’ are in the former group. That would really tell you, the audience, where the BBC’s real shared values are; and just how much the BBC values the values it promotes on its programmes (about democracy and Bob’s love for Africa and transparency and equality); and exactly what it is that the BBC directors mean when they tell their staff ‘We’re One BBC’.